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Pharmacotherapy. 2017 Feb;37(2):221-235. doi: 10.1002/phar.1882. Epub 2017 Feb 3.

Evaluation of Altered Drug Pharmacokinetics in Critically Ill Adults Receiving Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation.

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Surgical Intensive Care Unit, UMass Memorial Medical Center, Worcester, Massachusetts.
Heart Transplant/MCS, Gill Heart Institute, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky.


Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is a life-support modality used in patients with refractory cardiac and/or respiratory failure. A significant resurgence in the use ECMO has been seen in recent years as a result of substantial improvements in technology and survival benefit. With expanding ECMO use, a better understanding of how ECMO affects drug pharmacokinetics (PK) is necessary. The vast majority of PK studies in patients receiving ECMO have been conducted within neonatal or pediatric populations or within a controlled environment (e.g., in vitro or ex vivo). Because of significant differences in absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion, it may be inappropriate to extrapolate these PK data to adults. Thus, the aims of this review are to evaluate the changes in drug PK during ECMO and to summarize the available PK data for common drugs used in the adult critically ill patients during ECMO support. A search of the PubMed (1965-July 2016), EMBASE (1965-July 2016), and Cochrane Controlled Trial Register databases was performed. All relevant studies describing PK alterations during ECMO in ex vivo experiments and in adults were included. Evaluation of the data indicated that drug PK in adults receiving ECMO support may be significantly altered. Factors influencing these alterations are numerous and have intricate relationships with each other but can generally be classified as ECMO circuit factors, drug factors, and patient factors. Commonly used drugs in these patients include antimicrobials, sedatives, and analgesics. PK data for most of these drugs are generally lacking; however, recent research efforts in this patient population have provided some limited guidance in drug dosing. With an improved understanding of altered drug PK secondary to ECMO therapy, optimization of pharmacotherapy within this critically ill population continues to move forward.


analgesia; antibacterial agents; extracorporeal membrane oxygenation; hypnotics and sedatives; pharmacokinetics

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